The Clubs and Societies Fair at St. Thomas had a few new tables this year. One of them was the STU Muslim Women’s Group, founded by third year student Sarah Crowell, a recent Muslim convert.
“When I converted to Islam I realized… no one knew each other,” said Crowell. “Everybody is isolated from each other, kind of lost.”
Crowell took it upon herself to provide a safe and comfortable environment for Muslim women by starting this group. She opened it up to UNB students as well as women from nearby colleges.
“I figured this would be a good way to bring everyone together so we can learn and grow.”
Crowell said part of the challenges of being a Muslim in the West is the religious stereotypes. This group also teaches non-Muslims about what Islam truly stands for.
“If you translated the word Islam to English it would mean peace,” Crowell said. “People sometimes forget that.”
One of the most important duties of Muslim women, one that sets them apart from men, is wearing the Hijab. There are many variations of it – some women show their face and some don’t. It depends on personal belief, but the common motivation is modesty.
“When people see the Hijab they’re afraid that you’re oppressed,” said Crowell “but I want people to know that when I started wearing the Hijab I felt very liberated and free.”
According to Crowell, making this a women-only group is necessary for the comfort of the women. Wearing the Hijab is not only about dressing more conservatively, but also behaving so as well. If men were present, the women would not be able to truly open up.
“We can discuss openly and speak our mind,” said Crowell. “We can talk about anything.”
Following strict rules can be difficult in a liberal society, so this group is also an outlet for women to socialize without breaking them.
“We can learn about Islam, and then take a break from the religion,” she said. “It’ll be a break from school as well, so we can have fun in an appropriate way.”
Crowell said the feedback from the community regarding the new group has been positive.
“I’ve actually been surprised,” she said. “I haven’t heard anything negative yet, so I’m happy.”